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Councillor Ann Norton

former minister under fire over lack of services for people with disabilities

Former Minister of State Finian McGrath has been accused of not doing enough to provide day services for adults with disabilities during the Covid-19  lockdown.

Councillor Ann Norton said Minister McGrath was still being paid as a minister of state during this period when it seemed as if he “disappeared off the planet”.

The Clare Crusaders’ Clinic manager outlined her phone is “hopping” with calls from frustrated parents of adults and children with disabilities.

The HSE stated recently that a national group representative of service users and families, providers and HSE are working together to prepare for the resumption of day service supports in line with Covid-19 guidance.

Commenting on this plan, she described the lack of proper communication with parents of adults with disabilities during the lockdown as unacceptable.

Councillor Norton stressed Minister McGrath should have done more to fast-track action to provide day services for people with disabilities during this period.

“Finian McGrath has been a huge disappointment to the ministry he was given. He was given a massive opportunity for someone who lives in the same world as we do and he couldn’t make any changes.

“The disability allowance of €209 is an insult for anyone with a disability. How is someone with a disability supposed to live on that? They still have same expenses as others if they are living independently such as rent, utilities, groceries and taxis.

“The disability service since the onset of Covid-19 is non-existent. The HSE are responsible for the provision of services and some of these services are provided by different agencies on their behalf.

“When an agency is providing a service for a small group such as three adults with disabilities what was the reason for stopping services when provisions could have been put in place around hygiene and precautions like wearing masks?

“It is very difficult to explain to an adult that has an intellectual disability they are going home, will stay at home with nothing happening. Their whole routine has been thrown up in the air and no one has given this any consideration.

“We are looking at a piece of paper telling us things are going to re-open but there are no logic in terms of what they are doing, it seems to be a way of trying to keep parents quiet,” he said.

She said a plan to help people with disabilities should have been put in place at the start of Covid-19.

“Are people with a disability not part of a society? Do they not deserve to be prioritised? They seem to be the poor relation and are picking up scraps.

“There is frustration of not knowing and not being able to explain to adults who deserve a service. The money being spent on disability services is huge but it is not benefiting the service user. It seems to be gobbled up by paperwork and complications.

“I have spoken to parents who are so frustrated they don’t know if they are coming or going because no one seems to know what is happening,” she said.

Minister McGrath said since the General Election he continued to fulfill all his ministerial duties including attendance at all Cabinet meetings and continuing engagements with people with disabilities and their representatives.

He cited achievements including ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; enacting the Irish Sign Language Act and overseeing an increase in the budget for disability services annually to more than €2 billion during his term of office.

He stressed he is very aware of the difficulties experienced by families and carers after the closure of day services and noted the continuation of individualised online and telephone contact supports with families.

He emphasised the resumption of day services had to be safe for people with disabilities for whom social distancing may be difficult and expects to know before the end of June when these services will be reinstated.

Dan Danaher

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